September 29, 2013

Garden Bloggers Conference and visit to Kathy Purdy's

Oneonta, New York farm
Central Upstate New York state, with its rolling hills, early fall foliage and 19th C. farmland.

This past weekend, I ended my whirlwind tour of speaking engagements in beautiful upstate New York where I was a guest speaker at the Adirondack chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS). Now, I finally can rest, and reflect on the past three weeks - as there are no more speaking engagements for me through the rest of the year. Time to focus on work, some blog tweaks and, well, Lydia, our Irish Terrier female who is due to deliver a litter of puppies any day now. Joe leaves for the Montgomery national terrier show, where Weasley is showing, and leaving me with the rest of the 'kids, and taking care of my father for a few days. I'm OK with this quiet time, as I can focus on some work design projects, and then this weekend, start the awesome task of moving plants back into the greenhouse.

Cochicum selections bloom in their second year of planting along an old stone wall, in the garden of Kathy Purdy, author of the gardening blog Cold Climate Gardening.

Being in Toronto two weeks ago, then in Atlanta last weekend, and now, in Ithaca New York, speaking at the North American Rock Garden Society Adirondack Chapter at Cornell University this past weekend weekend, has provided a nice perspective on how different autumn can be in various parts of North America ( I think I choose New York state!). Here are some thoughts and highlights of the past two weeks, as a start to focus back on my own garden chores, as winter blooming bulb orders have arrived from Telos Rare Bulbs, and I need to pot up some new collections of Oxalis before it gets dark tonight. Enjoy.
Click READ MORE, below:

Red Barn
This looked like a Fisher Price toy farm play set.

Now for the details. This past week, I did take some personal time away from both my garden and my job, to attend a garden blogging conference in Atlanta, which ended up being not what I expected at all ( in a great way!). I was able to meet some amazing people in the plant world ( Dan Hinkley, of course) and in the blogging world some of the other most active and friendly garden bloggers you could ever imagine - such as ( Amy Stewart from Garden Rant, , Rochelle Greayer from Studio G, (who is also my neighbor!), the stunning Teresa O'Connor of Seasonal Wisdom, gorgeous Robin Plaskoff Horton of Urban Gardens, the lovely and sweet Dee Nash from Red Dirt Ramblings  and yes, the equally stunning, sweet and gorgeous Hank Jenkins of Plant Provocateur. ( I hope I didn't miss anyone! Plus, I was so lucky to have a fabulous dinner with one of our hosts, who happens to also be a wine expert - Adam Japko of Wine Zag ( hey, grapes are a plant, right?). I also met with some leading staff of some leading gardening magazines ( Fine Gardening, the new owners of Garden Design) and the guys (Todd and Tony)  from Snug Harbor Farm in Maine). Atlanta was a great location for the event, even though we never left the hotel ( lots of bar time, you know - "networking".

After a couple of days back at the office, I then had to leave for Ithaca, NY to speak at the Adirondack Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society at Cornell, which provided a nice surprise - a chance to meet another fellow blogger, Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening. I have never met Kathy before, even though her top blog ( number 2 on Blogrank - I am a measly number 15) was the first gardening blog I ever read when I first started writing this beast way back in 2006.  Here are some pics of her amazing garden and her even more impressive Colchicum collection, which I was fortunate to see in it's prime.

New York, Oneonta
Upstate New York is surprisingly beautiful and rural.

After my talk, I was in a hurry to drive home ( 5 hours) from the center for of New York State, so I declined the many offers to tour gardens in the area, and dinner, but as I discovered, there is no easy nor direct way back to Boston from the Utica area. Kathy was kind enough to let me follow her, as she lived an hour away, but in the same direction that I needed to travel, and she promised to get me close to the highway that I needed to reach. The rolling hills, the early autumn forest just beginning to change color, acres of corn still golden-green, and the most iconic rural farm scenery one could ever imagine all became almost too much eye candy, and the fact that it was late September with bright, blue skies, didn't hurt either. I almost drove off of the road.

Colchicum Speciosus 'alba'
A white Colchicum speciosum  'album; in the garden, and collection of Kathy Purdy.

Kathy then turned off, and rolled down her window, thanking me for a nice talk, and then pointing me in the right direction to get to Rt 88. "Unless you want to come see my garden - and my colchicum collection. I live about 2 miles down this road". I jumped at the chance, even though I knew that it would add another hour to my drive.

As I was driving around central New upstate New York, I kept thinking about what it would be like to live here ( I think about that often!), and after seeing Kathy's home and garden, I think I am convinced. The time to move will be soon!

Kathy Purdy
Garden writer, blogger and plantswoman - Kathy Purdy, in front of her 19th C. farm house in central upstate New York.

Kathy has an impressive collection of Colchicum which she has been collecting for a few years now. Even to my somewhat trained eyes, it was hard to see the differences between many of the species and selections she had, but I knew most of the names (from sources like Odyssey Bulbs), but ordering such quantities as Kathy has, is still on my to-do list ( for like, when I move to Vermont or upstate!).

Colchicum 'Zephyr'
Kathy has recently discovered ( as I did last year with crocus) that many times large commercial mail order sources muddle up the names of selections, and properly identifying them can be a challenge. This tessellated form is one such example. But, who could ever complain when it looks this nice.

You know those rare moments when you suddenly realize that you are about to experience something extraordinary? Well, when I drove into Kathy's driveway as saw her collections of plants, her garden still in full glory, and her mid-nineteenth century farm house - I knew that I may be staying longer than an hour! So, big deal -  I'll have to drive home in the dark.

Kathy has a secret spot on the edge of her garden, near the woodland - a tumbling mountain stream. It's where she goes to clear her brain, and to find a peaceful moment with nature, away from the computer and I'm sure, even the garden.

Kathy is one of those bloggers who is not just a talented writer ( Oh, how I wish I could write half as well), but she is also a real horticulturist. A plant geek to truly keeps a garden that is worthy of a garden tour, and a plant society tour. Full of beauty, charm and horticultural interest, I finally get to ask the question that others often ask about me. "How do you find time to do it all, Kathy?"
Phlox flowers
Annual Phlox can be challenging to grow, but these, grown by Kathy's daughter, are still blooming. They remind me of a chapter in Ruth Stout's book, The No Work Garden Book, where she wrote about how to grow annual phlox to perfection. I'd say, they are pretty perfect.

A gushing stream can be better than a glass of wine after a long day at work. Of course, it is probably better with a glass of wine ( or a bottle!).


  1. I also love to see nature photo very much. Your all shots are really stunning. I am so wonder after visit your photos collection. A big thanks for sharing with us !!

  2. What a nice picture of Kathy! I'm thrilled to see pictures of her garden, too. You didn't even mention the very large family she cares for while she does everything else! With regard to the Twitter comments you mentioned: It appeared that some of you were listed as experts in some areas that perhaps you were not. Social media wasn't a huge part of your success, apparently, at least not from you directly. No need to criticize those who have done well at it, though. They might have even played a role in your success without your knowing it.

  3. Thanks Daricia, You're right, I shouldn't have criticized then ( although, they started it :) ). All's good, though. A lot of was transpired was poorly interpreted, although, I will say - I was surprised at how vocal some people were, and how defensive they were. I suppose, one must have a thick skin if one plays in the social media arena. After all, sometimes we forget that this is indeed "media" that we are creating.

  4. Thank you for a most flattering write-up! Were you really at my place an hour? It really didn't seem that long. And you are welcome to return, if you're ever "out my way" again. And having pulled some weeds in one of my flower beds, you know for certain that I don't do it all any more than you do! (I was wondering how you did it all.) And you (and your readers) should know I didn't order bunches of colchicums at a time. I order one single corm of whatever variety it is, and they multiply. They are a good investment!

  5. Oh you meant lovely friend and blogger, Kathy. I would so like to see her colchicum collection one day--if I ever get anywhere near her house--I'll go and see. Isn't New York so lovely in autumn? However, I would think your part of Mass would be just as beautiful. It was lovely to meet you in person Matt. I think the conference changed a lot of what I thought I knew about blogging, but I haven't quite wrapped my mind around it all yet. Kathy loved your talk. She mentioned it when we talked the other day. Thank you for the link love.~~Dee

  6. I appreciate that Kathy is a thoughtful and careful gardener and writer. I love that you have captured her and parts of her garden so beautifully. I also hope to visit her garden someday.

  7. Deborah Banks11:13 PM

    Welcome to the Kathy Purdy fan club! She is indeed a wonderful and knowledgeable writer, and naturalist. Her ColdClimateGardening blog is full of careful observations of her garden and the wild one around her.

  8. Kathy is a 'go to' gardening expert. She always gives thorough and accurate information and is a delightful person to boot. So glad you got the chance to visit her garden. I hope to some day.

  9. well, Deborah - I have to admit that much of the time, I am guilty of not taking the time to truly immerse myself in other gardening blogs ( it's a time thing, really), but I have known about Kathy's ColdClimateGardening blog for as long as I have been blogging myself, but just never too the time or effort to discover how deep it was, and who the person behind it was. You are correct - Kathy is amazing, I wish I could write as well as she does, and even though I complain far too much about my 'time' issues, I really wonder how Kathy does it all!

  10. As another lucky one who has gotten to visit Kathy in person [and will again soon], I appreciate the lovely write up about her and her garden. She is a special person and her gardens reflect that well.

  11. Hi Matt,

    Wonderful post about Kathy's beautiful gardens and stunning autumn views from Upstate New York! I lived in that area and visit there often and absolutely agree that autumn is splendidly showcased in this pastoral region. So thrilled to meet you and Dee and so many others at the Garden Bloggers Conference and already planning for next year!

  12. Ypa! Thanks Luba, yes, the Garden Bloggers Conference was so awesome - I am still trying to retype all of my notes! I did love Upstate NY!

  13. Your landscape photos of upstate New York are absolutely stunning.

  14. Thank you for your positive perspective on upstate, especially during the fall. Born in Syracuse, I migrated to Boston for college, and have been living in MetroWest ever since. Now that I've been away for 13 years, I appreciate CNY more and more each time I go back to visit family. While these industrial cities are still struggling, the glories of the surrounding rolling hills, the dairy farms, and apple orchards remain. I hope that the new and trendy "farm to table" movement and agro-tourism reinvigorates the economy in this area.Thank you for sharing your appreciation of the area as a visitor!


It's always a good thing to leave a comment!